The Vanishing Half Part V: Pacific Cove (1985/1988) Summary and Analysis
by Brit Bennett

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Part V: Pacific Cove (1985/1988) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 14

In 1988, six years after the main action of Part IV, Kennedy is now a daytime soap opera actress. She has, at least for the time, given up her “pursuit of artistic seriousness,” but she does land a leading part on the show Pacific Cove. This has come after many bit parts in other shows. She becomes so identified with her character of Charity Harris on Pacific Cove that even the cast members call her Charity rather than her real name. Her mother visits her on the set and takes an interest in the plot line on the show. In general, Stella is glad Kennedy is working and is successful, even though she still has reservations about acting as a career.

Kennedy recalls an incident in her childhood when she watched her mother frost a cake and was puzzled by her mother’s facility in doing so. When Kennedy begins asking questions about what Stella learned from her own mother—Kennedy’s grandmother—and where she died, Stella predictably gets impatient and defensive, saying her mother died in Opelousas, “the same place I grew up.” But Stella is caught in a lie, because she had previously revealed the name of Mallard to Kennedy, though as a seven-year-old Kennedy can only remember that the word began with “M.” 

Through the years Kennedy has tried to figure out what that place was; in college, she looked through encyclopedias in her boyfriend’s apartment but found nothing. Mallard is not on any map. In 1985, three years after last seeing her, Kennedy encounters Jude in New York. Jude attends a performance of Fiddler on the Roof in which Kennedy is appearing, and when Kennedy spots her in the audience, she flubs her line. Kennedy is continually troubled by the truth Jude revealed to her three years earlier, but she still refuses to accept the reality of it, and her mother insists to her that Jude’s story doesn’t make sense. But nothing about her mother’s story makes sense to Kennedy either. Stella’s past is a blank. 

In New York, Kennedy is living with her boyfriend, Frantz, an intellectual who was born in Haiti but who grew up mostly in Brooklyn. She tests out on him the idea that she herself is “not white,” but he doesn’t take her seriously. When Stella meets Frantz, she considers him “uppity,” supposedly “not for the reason you think” but because he “acts like his you-know-what don’t stink.” Kennedy responds that Frantz is in fact brilliant and that he has a PhD from Dartmouth, but Stella continues making her objections based on the fact that Kennedy has never before liked anyone so intelligent. Kennedy has dated a lot of boys, but she has the insight to see that going out with Frantz has been a kind of “experiment” for her, one that has failed because being with him has made her feel “whiter than before.”

When Jude and Kennedy finally talk to each other in New York, Jude reveals that she and Reese are in the city because he is going to have surgery. Just doesn’t say the exact kind of operation—only that it is “special” and that one has to find a certain type of doctor to perform it. She also tells Kennedy that she and Reese live in Minneapolis, because she is going to medical school there. For the first time, there is an indication that Jude’s life is more successful and directed than Kennedy’s. At this point Kennedy is still a struggling actress living in a basement apartment with “a boyfriend she only half understands,” whereas Jude is on her way to becoming a physician and has been with the same man she loves for years. 

Chapter 15

In 1988, Kennedy’s tenure on Pacific Cove  ends when her character, Charity, falls off a cruise ship and disappears. In a conversation with a black actress named Pam Reed, who plays a judge on one of the soaps, Kennedy reveals that her childhood friendship with the black family who had lived across the street from her in Brentwood ended when she had used the n-word to Cindy, the Walkers’ daughter. When Kennedy tells Pam...

(The entire section is 1,276 words.)